Real Estate Glossary Terms

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Abstract of Title
A condensed history of the title to a particular piece of real estate showing, in chronological sequence, matters such as conveyances, liens, and encumbrances which have been recorded against the title in the office of the register of deeds or other public recording place.

Adjustable Rate Mortgage
A mortgage with a fluctuating interest rate usually limited to one adjustment each year. There are a set number of maximum increases over the life of the loan, with the fluctuating rate based on a national index.

Acceptance occurs when all buyers and sellers have signed an identical copy of the offer, including signature on separate but identical copies of the offer.

Additional material attached to and made part of a document.

Adverse Fact
Something that significantly and adversely affects the value of the property; significantly reduces the structural integrity of improvements to real estate; presents a health risk to occupants of the property; or information that indicates that a party to a transaction is not able to or does not intend to meet the obligations under a contract made concerning a transaction.

A person who is authorized by another to act on their behalf.

A document used to change the term of a contract.

An estimate or opinion of value.

A mineral fiber which has been used in a variety of ways within the home, but generally as an insulator around plumbing. Asbestos can be friable or non-friable, and may be hazardous to health.

Assessed Value
The determination by the state of the property’s worth, for property tax purposes. Assessed value is usually a percentage of the appraised value.

Assumable Mortgage
A financing instrument whose terms are transferable to a party wishing to purchase the property holding the assumable mortgage.

Balloon Payment
A lump-sum payment due at the end of a mortgage contract period.

Binding Acceptance
Creates an enforceable contract between the parties. The offer is binding upon both parties only if a copy of the accepted offer is delivered to the party making the offer prior to the date established for binding acceptance.

A failure to perform as promised in a contract.

A person who is licensed to charge a fee to buy, sell, exchange, or lease real property for others.

The business of bringing buyers and seller together in the marketplace.

Buyer Agency Agreement
A written employment agreement that creates an agency relationship between a broker and a buyer. The buyer employs the broker to put forth a reasonable effort to find a property for the buyer to purchase and to negotiate on behalf of the buyer.

Buyer’s Broker
The firm that has entered into a buyer agency agreement with the buyer indicating that the broker will be representing the interests of the buyer.

Cancellation Agreement
A contract which terminates the rights that the buyer and seller have in a contract for sale.

The person who employs an agent to perform a service on their behalf.

The final act in a real estate transaction, in which all financing is distributed to the parties and rights to the property change from seller to buyer.

Cloud on Title
A claim or encumbrance that would affect or burden an owner’s title to real estate.

A provision in a contract that requires the completion of a certain act or the happening of a particular event before that contract is binding.

Contract for Sale
An agreement between buyer and seller for the sale and purchase of the seller's property.

Cooperating Broker
A broker, who works in conjunction with another broker in procuring a buyer for the seller's property.

Counter Offer
An offer which essentially terminates a prior offer and states only the new terms to be negotiated.

A person who receives services given on behalf of and for the benefit of a client.

A document which transfers ownership of title.

Dual Agency
An agent representing two principals in one transaction. Dual agency is legal in Wisconsin only with informed written consent of both parties to the transaction.

Earnest Money
Up front cash or item of value from the potential buyer which indicates their intention to make good on their offer to purchase.

Any claim against a property that may diminish its value.

The excess of a property's fair market value over the outstanding debts.

Exclusive Right to Sell
An agency agreement giving the listing broker the exclusive right to market the seller's property. The seller promises to pay a commission to the listing broker if the terms of the contract are fulfilled, except if the buyer is procured by the seller.

An article that was once personal property but has been so affixed to real estate that it has become real property.
Good Faith
An act that is done honestly.

A person who is receiving an interest in real property.

A person who is conveying an interest in real property.

The primary residence including the land and building surrounding the main house.
A valuable addition to land such as buildings, sewers, and sidewalks.
Joint Tenancy
Two or more persons holding title to real property who are named on the same deed, hold an equal interest which was obtained at the same time, and share an undivided possession of the property. Joint tenants benefit by the "right of survivorship".
Land Contract
A type of seller financing in which title does not transfer from seller to buyer until the mortgage has been paid in full. Under a land contract the buyer gains equitable title and seller maintains legal title.

Lead Poisoning
An illness caused by a toxic mineral which may be found in the home in paint or water pipes.

A legal right to place a claim or encumbrance on property or have it sold for payment of a debt.

A remedy for breach of contract, which is available only to the seller, whereby he/she retains the buyer’s earnest money as liquidated damages.

Listing Broker/Agent
The listing broker is the firm that the seller has employed under a listing contract. The listing agent is the agent within the employing firm who actually acquired the listing.

Listing Contract
A written employment agreement that creates an agency relationship between a broker and a seller.

Loan-to-Value Ratio
The relationship between the loan amount and the selling price.

Marital Property
Property ownership recognized in Wisconsin that views the married couple as a single unit. It establishes ownership rights and the right to manage and control the property. Marital property is the real and personal property of all married persons.

Market Price
The price a ready, willing, and able buyer actually pays for a property.

Market Value
The price at which a property would sell in the open market to a buyer who is under no duress, is not related to the seller, is well-informed about the property and who has been found within a reasonable amount of time.

Marketable Title
A title which is free from defects and encumbrances and may be transferred to another party.

Material Adverse Fact
An adverse fact that a party indicates is of such significance or that is generally recognized by a competent licensee as being of such significance to a reasonable party, that it affects the party's decision to enter into a contract or the terms of a contract.

Mirror Image Offer
An Offer to Purchase that is written at the price and on substantially the terms set forth in the listing. Even if the seller does not accept this offer the broker may be owed a commission.

Any statement of fact by one person to another, either by words or actions, which is not in accordance with the actual facts.

Mixed Marital Property
A combination of both individual and marital property that will always be treated as marital.

Financing instrument used to purchase property, comprised of the mortgage document and mortgage note.


Mortgage Document
The document pledging real estate as security for the repayment of a debt.

Mortgage Note
The note is the borrower’s actual promise to repay the loan.


Multiple Counter Proposal
A way for a seller to negotiate with more than one buyer at a time. The seller is not bound to a particular buyer until the seller accepts the buyer's approval of the multiple counter proposal.

Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
An agreement whereby brokers pool their listings and offer to cooperate and compensate other brokers and in some cases buyer’s brokers.

Nonconforming Use
Given when a building does not conform to zoning because of a change in the zoning ordinance. The use of the building will be allowed to continue until the improvements are destroyed or the current use is discontinued.

Notice Relating to the Offer to Purchase
A form used by the parties to a purchase contract whereby one party is unilaterally giving notice to the other party.

Offer to Purchase
A promise made, usually by a buyer, to purchase a seller’s property under certain terms.

Option to Purchase
An agreement to keep open, for a set period, an offer to sell or lease real property.

Origination Fee
The dollar amount charged by the lender to cover the time and expenses incurred to arrange a loan. The fee covers the lender’s overhead for the processing of the loan throughout the loan term.

Personal Property (Personalty)
Property that is portable or unattached to the real estate.

An acronym used to describe a loan payment that includes principal, interest, taxes, and insurance.

Prepaid interest that is collected at closing. This money is used to buydown the interest rate of a mortgage.

Power of Attorney
A written instrument giving a person the authority to act on behalf of another (the principal).

Primary Market
The market where loans generally are originated and sold.

1. One who has permitted or directed another to act for his/her benefit and subject to his/ her direction and control; 2. The amount of money which is borrowed, not including the payment of interest.

Private Mortgage Insurance
An insurance policy written to insure a portion of a mortgage amount for a borrower.

Purchase Money Mortgage
The seller takes a mortgage from the buyer for all or a portion of the purchase price. Seller has equitable title and buyer gets legal title.

Radon Gas
An odorless radioactive gas which may enter a home through cracks in the foundation or drains in the floor.
Secondary Market
A market for the purchase and sale of existing mortgages.

Selling Broker/Agent
The selling broker is the firm which procured the buyer for a seller. The selling agent is the actual person, within the selling broker’s firm, who actually procured the buyer.

Specific Performance
An action brought by a court to force a party to carry out the terms of a contract.

An agent who works under another agent.

Sue for Damages
A remedy for breach of contract whereby a party sues the breaching party for cash damages.

Sue for Specific Performance
A remedy for breach of contract whereby one party to a contract sues the other party to carry out the agreement of the contract.

Target Housing
Housing constructed prior to 1978, which under the Lead Based Paint Disclosure Law, requires a Lead Based Paint Addendum included with the Offer to Purchase. The exemptions to this law include housing for the elderly, housing for the disabled or 0-bedroom dwelling.

Time is of the Essence
The specified date in the contract by which agreed-upon acts must be completely performed or the non-performing party will breach the contract.

Time Share
Ownership of real property for a limited time period, usually one week each year.

Title Insurance
An insurance policy which protects the insured against loss or defects which may occur in the title.

Transfer Fee
A state imposed fee on the sale of property. The rate of the transfer fee is 30 cents for each 100 dollars of value.

Underground Storage Tank
Tanks used in the storage of fuel or heating oil for noncommercial purposes or consumptive use.

Unenforceable Contract
A contract whereby neither party can sue the other for performance. However, an unenforceable contract may be valid between the parties by their mutual agreement.

Valid Contract
A contract that contains all of the necessary elements and is enforceable in a court of law.

Grants permission to deviate from a zoning restriction.

Void Contract
An unenforceable contract that lacks legal purpose or essential requirements.

Voidable Contract
A contract that can be voided by an injured party.

An area where water is at, near or above the land surface long enough to be capable of supporting aquatic or hydrophytic vegetation.